Q: I’m in my early 30s and once thought I had my life together and well planned. I figured I wanted to find a husband and settle down with two or three kids and that would be the ultimate goal. However, the more I see my friends settling down and attending their weddings, I just feel uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable hearing about their vows, and when I hear about friends announcing pregnancies, my immediate reaction is not happy. I’m happy for her, of course, but a bigger and bigger part of me feels something else. I want to call it something like “relief that it’s not me,” but I’m afraid to say that because I’m worried it will make me a bad person and I don’t know what it means to me own plans means. I am currently single and content with that as I don’t want to settle with anyone. At the same time, I want to explore my sexuality and have fun, but also find a good relationship, and I’m aware that my biological clock is ticking and my schedule for my relationship goals feels like it’s falling apart. I feel like I don’t know what I really want and that scares me. Will I miss what I thought I wanted?
dr West replies: The clue in your email is “what I thought what I wanted”. As women, we are often bombarded with messages about sex, our bodies, our desires, what we “should” and when we “should” do it. These messages come from all aspects of our lives, from pop culture to family. However, these messages about how the perfect woman should behave often leave no room for what we actually want as individuals, and they don’t allow us to think about other ways of being and to explore relationships. Not everyone dreams of the big white dress and 2.4 kids, but we’re often expected to make that our ultimate goal in life. Think of most romcoms we see – they usually end with the couple happily settling down and building a life together. Many people try this and find that this way of life doesn’t work for them.
You sound confused – and that’s perfectly fine. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or what you want. It means opening your mind to different options, and that can be scary to think about. Change is difficult for many people, especially those who are neurodivergent or people who realize they have sexualities or genders other than straight and cis. It can be difficult to acknowledge your true feelings and dismiss these messages about the perfect relationship or the “normal” way to experience sexuality.
Your biological clock may feel limiting, but there are many ways science can help people with fertility issues and our eggs don’t suddenly die when we hit 30. Many people are now choosing to have children later in life and can accomplish this in traditional ways or with the help of technology. Try not to let that panic push you into feeling like you have to get everything done by a set schedule. As we have seen over the past few years, unexpected events can occur and affect our lives.
Think about what authentic sexuality and sexual desire looks like to you. There are many ways to examine this, but to do so in the safest way, a few criteria must be considered. First, review your understanding of consent and boundaries. How do you determine what you expect from sexual encounters, how do you communicate this, and how do you know what consent looks like to you? Consent is so much more than yes and no, and consent is a way for us to understand our authentic sexual selves and what we contribute to sex. Boundaries help us have sex the way we want and help us recognize red flags and toxic behavior. Sex is so much more than knowing physical positions, but the emotional side can be challenging to feel in control. This can be difficult as sex education often doesn’t prepare us for the complicated nature of sex, so we need to educate ourselves consistently. Knowledge is power, and knowing more about what we want and what sex means to us can help us have the kinds of sex and relationships that are truly satisfying and empowering. You can explore this through podcasts, books, adult content, or self-exploration.
Perhaps feeling uncomfortable with your friends at these milestones is a signal that you have these fears of being single that are also mixed with relief at being single. It is possible to experience multiple emotions at the same time and to vacillate between feelings. Of course, this can be difficult to process as we like things like sexuality to be clear and straightforward, but the reality isn’t always that simple for everyone. If you’re interested in reading some academic papers on the fear of the idea that sex is unstable, you might be interested in Julia Kristeva’s work, which argues that those who deny the fluidity of sex and sexuality are doomed to failure are Sexuality is malleable. It’s okay not to know what you want, and it’s okay to refuse a social schedule that requires you to figure out and cement your relationship status. Take some time to figure out who you are, what you want out of a relationship, what kind of relationship you want, and what you bring to a relationship — and even if you want a relationship at all. This fear could be an opportunity to find your true, authentic sense of self, which will be more satisfying in the long run than doing what society expects. Maybe it’s time for a new adventure.
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dr West is a sex educator and host of the Glow West podcast, which focuses on sex. Send your questions to email@example.com. dr West regrets that she cannot answer questions privately
https://www.independent.ie/style/sex-relationships/asking-for-a-friend-i-thought-i-wanted-marriage-and-kids-but-im-not-sure-will-i-miss-my-chance-if-i-explore-my-sexuality-41454542.html Asking for a friend: “I thought I wanted to get married and have kids, but I’m not sure. Am I missing my chance exploring my sexuality?’